Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) ***

PG, 104 min.
Director: Leonard Nimoy
Writers: Harve Bennett, Gene Roddenberry (tv series)
Starring: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, Robin Curtis, Merritt Butrick, Christopher Lloyd, Mark Leonard, Judith Anderson

“Star Trek III: The Search for Spock” is the middle part of what turned out to be a story trilogy beginning with “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” and ending with “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home”. Fittingly, it seems to be the middle child of the three. It doesn’t really tell a pleasant story. The crew of the Enterprise is all out of sorts due to Spock’s death. Bones doesn’t act like Bones. Kirk has to steal the Enterprise and ends up destroying it. And the triumvirate at the heart of the original cast series is MIA due to Spock’s (and McCoy’s sort of) absence. It also seems to have the smallest budget of the three.

That doesn’t mean it’s bad, however. It might not look as good as the rest of the series at first. Heck, my opinion on this one seems to jump up and down on every alternating viewing. But, one thing they do a great job of in this movie is raising the stakes. It was a shock that they would kill off a major character, a core member of the series since its inception, at the end of “Star Trek II”. That shock is dispelled by the title alone of this film. Somehow, Harve Bennett’s screenplay is able to up the ante on that ending by essentially casting off Starfleet as Kirk’s primary priority this time around.

It’s unfortunate that Kirstie Alley’s fear of being typecast didn’t allow her to return to the role of Lt. Saavik. Robin Curtis just doesn’t carry the same weight in the role; however, this may not have been the actor’s fault, since Nimoy directed her to be a full Vulcan. Alley was directed to play Saavik as half Vulcan, half Romulan in the previous film. But, the story of Spock’s rediscovery is left almost entirely in the hands of new cast members to the “Star Trek” franchise. They never feel as comfortable in their roles as the cast members who are playing characters they’ve known for more than 15 years.

It’s also important to note that the budget was not the lowest of the three films, but only seemed so. The budget for this one was $6 million more than the previous film (the producers would up the budget another $8 million for the next film). I think one of the reasons this film seems cheaper is Leonard Nimoy’s lack of imagination in how he films the space sequences. Nicholas Meyer shows he really knows how to film the spacecrafts’ movements through space in “Khan”. The movement isn’t necessarily realistic space travel, but it has the same kinetics of movement as the space battles in “Star Wars”, while not as fast paced. Here the space flight seems more two-dimensional than Meyers’ work. The sets are also less imaginative. It seems as a first time director, Nimoy had to learn how to spend his money better. He would for “The Voyage Home”. 

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